Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Travels with Toby: 1000 Acres
Troutdale OR

Guest contributor Peggy Williams is often out and about with her BFF Toby, a small-but-tenacious border collie mix. For those of us who know Toby, we’re pretty sure he has a MENSA- level IQ. That, combined with his relentless border collie intensity challenges Peggy to find new and different things to keep her furry pal stimulated. Read on for her update from the field.

Sometimes playing chuck-it in the neighbor park just isn't enough for Toby. He’s famous for his fetch-and-retrieve marathons, and is practically inexhaustible. That's why I was recently motivated to get in the car and explore some new off-leash turf to wear out the little bugger.

Dogs happily running free at 1000 Acres

That’s how I discovered 1000 Acres, a canine playground just outside Portland – the Sandy River Delta in Troutdale, to be exact. And although the name sounds like someplace one might go to recover from a nervous breakdown, it’s actually an expansive dog park that’s the equivalent of Doggie Nirvana. (It's also been referred to as Doggie Disneyland.) Name aside, it will provide a peak experience for your dog.

After doing some quick Google research, it seems the park is currently maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Oregon National Guard, plus two private construction companies. I get the Forest Service, ODOT, and the construction companies … but the National Guard? Perhaps they’re involved in case of a spontaneous canine uprising. (Quick! Call in the National Guard – they’ve gone feral, and they’re ORGANIZED!)

OK. Back to reality.

When we arrived at the gravel parking lot, we saw signs for both leashed and off-leash trails. Of course, Toby and I chose an off-leash option. (Apparently, at one time, this park was solely off-leash, but rumor has it that dog waste became a problem. And speaking of animal waste, we also saw some horse dung, which leads me to believe horses also share the trails, although we didn’t come across any.)

We set out on a flat trail for about twenty minutes, then came upon a fork. We veered right and wound up at a swimming hole. (A doggie “eureka!” moment for sure.) Truth be told, the swimming hole resembled more of a small swamp zone that people probably won't enjoy, but that dogs definitely do. On this particular Sunday afternoon, the swimming hole wasn’t crowded (which may not always be the case). Swampiness aside, it was heartwarming to watch Toby race around madly, then plunge joyously into the water to refresh himself.

Toby takes a dip 

It is worth noting that the surroundings are beautiful … lush riverbanks and plenty of sky. It happened to be clear that day, so we enjoyed a lovely view of Mt. Hood for part of our walk. There were also plenty of mountain bikers enjoying the trails, free to ride while their dogs could follow along or dart ahead as they pleased.

So, definitely Nirvana for dogs, and idyllic for people. But even with the high bliss factor, there are still a few things worth keeping in mind:

Bring plenty of water for both you and your dog. 1000 Acres is an open space. That means not much shade. Although the temperature was pleasant the day I was there, I could imagine it getting hot on a summer day. You will be walking and the dogs will be romping, so both you and your dog will get thirsty.

Bring your own waste bags. Some bags are provided at the head of the trail, but my guess is that they run out fast on a busy day. The good news is there are trash cans strategically placed along the way, so no need to haul a used doggy bag for too long.

Keep your eyes peeled for coyotes. There have been some sightings, so stay alert and make sure Fido knows his commands.

How to get there from Portland: Take I-5 to 84 east. Exit at Lewis and Clark State Park. Turn RIGHT under freeway overpass, and circle back around toward the freeway again. The entrance to the large park in on the left. There’s plenty of parking, plenty of people, and plenty of dogs.